By Deborah W. Dobbs | Contributor
How do personality types affect our relationships with our children? We don’t have to dig in to all 16 Myers-Briggs personality types or complete a DISC assessment to explore this. We can focus on introversion/extroversion and note significant influences on parenting styles.
These aspects of our personality type involve much more than preferences regarding social interactions. Long-term studies have revealed that the brains of introverts and extroverts respond differently to new stimuli and rewards. You can learn lots of fascinating facts about these differences in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Parenting offers plenty of challenges, and those challenges increase when parents and children have different personality types. I’m an introvert, and my daughter revealed she was an unabashed extrovert when she was just a toddler. If she saw a stranger having a birthday party at McDonald’s, she’d join in. One year while strolling along at the State Fair, my daughter followed an enthusiastic voice coming over a loud speaker. Next thing I knew, she was holding a first prize trophy after competing in a Pee Wee Rodeo. She attended many a parents-night-out on her own. As a tween, she went off to a week-long camp out of state and had a blast, despite not knowing a single soul there. I’ve often stood in awe of her ability to charge into the unknown. I see incredible bravery, but to her, diving into adventures comes naturally.
Every personality type offers unique strengths. Redtri.com from Founder Leah R. Singer is loaded with tips for parenting younger children while considering personality types. For instance, it’s important to understand that entering an ocean of people is stressful for an introvert. That stress is easily avoided if you arrive early to group events, like birthday parties or meet-the-teacher nights. Your introvert child isn’t “awkward” or pathologically shy. She simply assesses an environment before stepping into it. (Introverts tend to take fewer risks and evaluate options before acting.) When it comes to learning, it helps when an introvert parent understands that his extrovert child will struggle with homework if forced to do it in complete silence. What is distracting to an introvert might foster learning in an extrovert. Allow some background music or a more stimulating study area.
Personality types also impact quality time. When you want quality time with your teen, it’s important to enter his or her world, rather than pull your teen into yours. You might find your teen’s world boring or overwhelming or just right, depending on your personality type. In his book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, Gary Chapman explains that quality time involves togetherness. Consider your teen’s tendency (toward introversion or extroversion) when suggesting activities for quality time. You might love a Maverick’s game, yet your introvert son might leave the place feeling depleted. Fishing might be your passion but dreadfully boring to your extrovert son or daughter. Whether you’re enjoying quiet time or a boisterous event, the point is to create a feeling of togetherness. This requires focus on your teen. Focusing on your teen includes actions like eye contact and touch (a hug, a pat on the back or nudging shoulders). Togetherness also involves getting to know your teen. You can do this by asking open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no). Examples are questions such as, “What does a typical day at your school look like?” or “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” One thing introvert and extrovert children and teens have in common is that they all benefit tremendously from feeling loved.
Editor’s Note: Deborah W. Dobbs is the Executive Director of The Counseling Place, a nonprofit agency providing affordable, professional and education services and counseling. Reach her at 469.283.0242 or couselingplace.org.